Part 6 out of 6
He hastened northward, the council broke up the next day, and the
visiting governors hurried back to their respective provinces to
prepare for the campaigns, leaving Braddock to strike the first blow.
THE FOREST FIGHT
Robert thought they would march at once, but annoying delays
occurred. He had noticed that Hamilton, the governor of the great
neighboring province of Pennsylvania, was not present at the council,
but he did not know the cause of it until Stuart, the young Virginian,
"Pennsylvania is in a huff," he said, "because General Braddock's army
has been landed at Alexandria instead of Philadelphia. Truth to tell,
for an expedition against Fort Duquesne, Philadelphia would have been
a nearer and better place, but I hear that one John Hanbury, a
powerful merchant who trades much in Virginia, wanted the troops to
come this way that he might sell them supplies, and he persuaded the
Duke of Newcastle to choose Alexandria. 'Tis a bad state of affairs,
Lennox, but you and I can't remedy it. The chief trouble is between
the general and the Pennsylvanians, many of whom are Quakers and
Germans, as obstinate people as this world has ever produced."
The differences and difficulties were soon patent to all. A month of
spring was passing, and the army was far from having the necessary
supplies. Neither Virginia nor Pennsylvania responded properly. In
Pennsylvania there was a bitter quarrel between the people and the
proprietary government that hampered action. Many of the contractors
who were to furnish equipment thought much more of profit than of
patriotism. Braddock, brave and honest, but tactless and wholly
ignorant of the conditions predominant in any new country, raged and
stormed. He denounced the Virginia troops that came to his standard,
calling shameful their lack of uniforms and what he considered their
lack of discipline.
Robert heard that in these turbulent days young Washington, whom
Braddock had taken on his staff as a colonel and for whom he had a
warm personal regard, was the best mediator between the testy general
and the stubborn population. In his difficult position, and while yet
scarcely more than a boy, he was showing all the great qualities of
character that he was to display so grandly in the long war twenty
"Tis related," said Willet, "that General Braddock will listen to
anything from him, that he has the most absolute confidence in his
honesty and good judgment, and, judging from what I hear, General
Braddock is right."
But to Robert, despite the anxieties, the days were happy. As he had
affiliated readily with the young Virginians he was also quickly a
friend of the young British officers, who were anxious to learn about
the new conditions into which they had been cast with so little
preparation. There was Captain Robert Orme, Braddock's aide-de-camp, a
fine manly fellow, for whom he soon formed a reciprocal liking, and
the son of Sir Peter Halket, a lieutenant, and Morris, an American,
another aide-de-camp, and young William Shirley, the son of the
governor of Massachusetts, who had become Braddock's secretary. He
also became well acquainted with older officers, Gladwin who was to
defend Detroit so gallantly against Pontiac and his allied tribes,
Gates, Gage, Barton and others, many of whom were destined to serve
again on one side or other in the great Revolution.
Grosvenor knew all the Englishmen, and often in the evenings, since
May had now come they sat about the camp fires, and Robert listened
with eagerness as they told stories of gay life in London, tales of
the theater, of the heavy betting at the clubs and the races, and now
and then in low tones some gossip of royalty. Tayoga was more than
welcome in this group, as the great Thayendanegea was destined to be
years later. His height, his splendid appearance, his dignity and his
manners were respected and admired. Willet sometimes sat with them,
but said little. Robert knew that he approved of his new friendships.
Willet was undoubtedly anxious. The delays which were still numerous
weighed heavily upon him, and he confided to Robert that every day
lost would increase the danger of the march.
"The French and Indians of course know our troubles," he
said. "St. Luc has gone like an arrow into the wilderness with all the
news about us, and he's not the only one. If we could adjust this
trouble with the Pennsylvanians we might start at once."
An hour or two after he uttered his complaint, Robert saw a middle
aged man, not remarkable of appearance, talking with Braddock. His
dress was homespun and careless, but his large head was beautifully
shaped, and his features, though they might have been called homely,
shone with the light of an extraordinary intelligence. His manner as
he talked to Braddock, without showing any tinge of deference, was
soothing. Robert saw at once, despite his homespun dress, that here
was a man of the great world and of great affairs.
"Who is he?" he said to Willet.
"It's Benjamin Franklin, of Pennsylvania," replied the hunter. "I hear
he's one of the shrewdest men in all the colonies, and I don't doubt
It was Robert's first sight of Franklin, certainly not the least in
that amazing group of men who founded the American Union.
"They say," continued Willet, "that he's already achieved the
impossible, that he's drawing General Braddock and the Pennsylvanians
together, and that we'll soon get weapons, horses and all the other
supplies we need."
It was no false news. Franklin had done what he alone could do. One of
the greatest masters of diplomacy the world has ever known, he brought
Braddock and Pennsylvania together, and smoothed out the
difficulties. All the needed supplies began to flow in, and on the
tenth of an eventful May the whole army started from Wills Creek to
which point it had advanced, while Franklin was removing the
difficulties. A new fort named Cumberland had been established there,
and stalwart Virginians had been cutting a road ahead through the
The place was on the edge of the unending forest. The narrow fringe
of settlements on the Atlantic coast was left behind, and henceforth
they must march through regions known only to the Indians and the
woods rangers. But it was a fine army, two British regiments under
Halket and Dunbar, their numbers reinforced by Virginia volunteers,
and five hundred other Virginians, divided into nine companies. There
was a company of British sailors, too, and artillery, and hundreds of
wagons and baggage horses. Among the teamsters was a strong lad named
Daniel Boone destined to immortality as the most famous of all
Robert, Willet and Tayoga could have had horses to ride, but against
the protests of Grosvenor and their other new English friends they
declined them. They knew that they could scout along the flanks of an
army far better on foot.
"In one way," said Willet, to Grosvenor, "we three, Robert, Tayoga and
I, are going back home. The lads, at least have spent the greater
part of their lives in the forest, and to me it has given a kindly
welcome for these many years. It may look inhospitable to you who come
from a country of roads and open fields, but it's not so to us. We
know its ways. We can find shelter where you would see none, and it
offers food to us, where you would starve, and you're a young man of
"At least I can see its beauty," laughed Grosvenor, as he looked upon
the great green wilderness, stretching away and away to the far blue
hills. "In truth 'tis a great and romantic adventure to go with a
force like ours into an unknown country of such majestic quality."
He looked with a kindling eye from the wilderness back to the army,
the greatest that had yet been gathered in the forest, the red coats
of the soldiers gleaming now in the spring sunshine, and the air
resounding with whips as the teamsters started their trains.
"A great force! A grand force!" said Robert, catching his
enthusiasm. "The French and Indians can't stand before it!"
"How far is Fort Duquesne?" asked Grosvenor.
"In the extreme western part of the province of Pennsylvania, many
days' march from here. At least, we claim that it's in Pennsylvania
province, although the French assert it's on their soil, and they have
possession. But it's in the Ohio country, because the waters there
flow westward, the Alleghany and Monongahela joining at the fort and
forming the great Ohio."
"And so we shall see much of the wilderness. Well, I'm not sorry,
Lennox. 'Twill be something to talk about in England. I don't think
they realize there the vastness and magnificence of the colonies."
That day a trader named Croghan brought about fifty Indian warriors to
the camp, among them a few belonging to the Hodenosaunee, and offered
their services as scouts and skirmishers. Braddock, who loved
regularity and outward discipline, gazed at them in astonishment.
"Savages!" he said. "We will have none of them!"
The Indians, uttering no complaint, disappeared in the green forest,
with Willet and Tayoga gazing somberly after them.
"'Twas a mistake," said the hunter. "They would have been our eyes and
ears, where we needed eyes and ears most."
"A warrior of my kin was among them," said Tayoga. "Word will fly
north that an insult has been offered to the Hodenosaunee."
"But," said Willet, "Colonel William Johnson will take a word of
another kind. As you know, Tayoga, as I know, and, as all the nations
of the Hodenosaunee know, Waraiyageh is their friend. He will speak to
them no word that is not true. He will brush away all that web of
craft, and cunning and cheating, spun by the Indian commissioners at
Albany, and he will see that there is no infringement upon the rights
of the great League."
"Waraiyageh will do all that, if he can reach Mount Johnson in time,"
said Tayoga, "but Onontio rises before the dawn, and he does not sleep
until after midnight. He sings beautiful songs in the ears of the
warriors, and the songs he sings seem to be true. Already the French
and their allies have been victorious everywhere save at Fort Refuge,
and they carry the trophies of triumph into Canada."
"But the time for us to strike a great blow is at hand, Tayoga," said
Robert, who, with Grosvenor had been listening. "Behold this splendid
army! No such force was ever before sent into the American
wilderness. When we take Fort Duquesne we shall hold the key to the
whole Ohio country, and we shall turn it in the lock and fasten it
against the Governor General of Canada and all his allies."
"But the wilderness is mighty," said Tayoga. "Even the army of the
great English king is small when it enters its depths."
"On the other hand so is that of the enemy, much smaller than ours,"
Soon after Croghan and his Indians left the camp a figure tall, dark
and somber, followed by a dozen men wild of appearance and clad in
hunter's garb, emerged from the forest and walked in silence toward
General Braddock's tent. The regular soldiers stared at them in
astonishment, but their dark leader took no notice. Robert uttered an
exclamation of surprise and pleasure.
"Black Rifle!" he said.
"And who is Black Rifle?" asked Grosvenor.
"A great hunter and scout and a friend of mine. I'm glad he's
here. The general can find many uses for Black Rifle and his men."
He ran forward and greeted Black Rifle, who smiled one of his rare
smiles at sight of the youth. Willet and Tayoga gave him the same warm
"What news, Black Rifle?" asked Robert.
"The French and Indians gather at Fort Duquesne to meet you. They are
not in great force, but the wilderness will help them and the best of
the French leaders are there."
"Have you heard anything of St. Luc?" asked Robert.
"We met a Seneca runner who had seen him. The Senecas are not at war
with the French, and the man talked with him a little, but the
Frenchman didn't tell him anything. We think he was on the way to Fort
Duquesne to join the other French leaders there."
"Have you heard the names of any of these Frenchmen?"
"Besides St. Luc there's Beaujeu, Dumas, Ligneris and Contrecoeur who
commands. French regulars and Canadian troops are in the fort, and the
heathen are pouring in from the west and north."
"Those are brave and skillful men," said Willet, as he listened to the
names of the French leaders who would oppose them. "But 'twas good of
you, Black Rifle, to come with these lads of yours to help us."
After the men had enjoyed food and a little rest, they were taken into
the great tent, where the general sat, Willet having procured the
interview, and accompanying them. Robert waited near with Grosvenor
and Tayoga, knowing how useful Black Rifle and his men could be to a
wilderness expedition, and hoping that they would be thrown together
in future service.
A quarter of an hour passed, and then Black Rifle strode from the
tent, his face dark as night. His men followed him, and, almost
without a word, they left the camp, plunged into the forest and
disappeared. Willet also came from the tent, crestfallen.
"What has happened, Dave?" asked Robert in astonishment.
"The worst. I suppose that when unlike meets unlike only trouble can
come. I introduced Black Rifle and his men to General Braddock. They
did not salute. They did not take off their caps in his presence,--not
knowing, of course, that such things were done in armies. General
Braddock rebuked them. I smoothed it all over as much as I could. Then
he demanded what they wanted there, as a haughty giver of gifts would
speak to a suppliant. Black Rifle said he and his men came to watch on
the front and flanks of the army against Indian ambush, knowing how
much it was needed. Braddock laughed and sneered. He said that an
army such as his did not need to fear a few wandering Indians, and, in
any event, it had eyes of its own to watch for itself. Black Rifle
said he doubted it, that soldiers in the woods could seldom see
anything but themselves. There was blame on both sides, but men like
General Braddock and Black Rifle can't understand each other, they'll
never understand each other, and, hot with wrath Black Rifle has taken
his band and gone into the woods. Nor will he come back, and we need
him! I tell you, Robert, we need him! We need him!"
"It is bad," said Tayoga. "An army can never have too many eyes."
Robert was deeply disappointed. He regretted not only the loss of
Black Rifle and his men, but the further evidence of an unyielding
temperament on the part of their commander. His own mind however so
ready to comprehend the mind of others, could understand Braddock's
point of view. To the general Black Rifle and his men were mere woods
rovers, savages themselves in everything except race, and the army
that he led was invincible.
"We'll have to make the best of it," he said.
"They've gone and they're a great loss, but the rest of us will try to
do the work they would have done."
"That is so," said Tayoga, gravely.
At last the army moved proudly away into the wilderness. Hundreds of
axmen, going ahead, cut a road twelve feet wide, along which cavalry,
infantry, artillery and wagons and pack horses stretched for
miles. The weather was beautiful, the forest was both beautiful and
grand, and to most of the Englishmen and Virginians the march appealed
as a great and romantic adventure. The trees were in the tender green
leafage of early May, and their solid expanse stretched away hundreds
and thousands of miles into the unknown west. Early wild flowers, a
shy pink or a modest blue, bloomed in the grass. Deer started from
their coverts, crashed through the thickets, and the sky darkened with
the swarms of wild fowl flying north. Birds of brilliant plumage
flashed among the leaves and often chattered overhead, heedless of the
passing army. Now and then the soldiers sang, and the song passed from
the head of the column along its rippling red, yellow and brown length
of four miles.
It was a cheerful army, more it was a gay army, enjoying the
wilderness which it was seeing at one of the finest periods of the
year, wondering at the magnificence of the forest, and the great
number of streams that came rushing down from the mountains.
"It's a noble country," said Grosvenor to Robert. "I'll admit all
that you claim for it."
"And there's so much of it, Grosvenor, even allowing for the portion,
the very big portion, the French claim."
"But from which we are going to drive them very soon, Robert, my lad."
"I think so, too, Grosvenor."
Often Robert, Willet and Tayoga went far ahead on swift foot,
searching the forest for ambush, and finding none, they would come
back and watch the axmen, three hundred in number, who were cutting
the road for the army. They were stalwart fellows, skilled in their
business, and their axes rang through the woods. Robert felt regret
when he saw the splendid trees fall and be dragged to one side, there
to rot, despite the fact that the unbroken forest covered millions of
The camps at night were scenes of good humor. Scouts and flankers
were thrown out in the forest, and huge fires were built of the fallen
wood which was abundant everywhere. The flames, roaring and leaping,
threw a ruddy light over the soldiers, and gave them pleasant warmth,
as often in the hills the dusk came on heavy with chill.
Despite the favorable nature of the season some of the soldiers unused
to hardships fell ill, and, more than a week later, when they reached
a place known as the Little Meadows, Braddock left there the sick and
the heavy baggage with a rear guard under Colonel Dunbar. A scout had
brought word that a formidable force of French regulars was expected
to reinforce the garrison at Fort Duquesne, and the general was
anxious to forestall them. Young Washington, in whom he had great
confidence, also advised him to push on, and now the army of chosen
troops increased its speed.
Robert came into contact with Braddock only once or twice, and then he
was noticed with a nod, but on the whole he was glad to escape so
easily. The general brave and honest, but irritable, had a closed
mind. He thought all things should be done in the way to which he was
used, and he had little use for the Americans, save for young
Washington, and young Morris, who were on his staff, and young Shirley
who was his secretary. To them he was invariably kind and considerate.
The regular officers made no attempt to interfere with Robert, Tayoga
and Willet, who, having their commissions as scouts, roamed as they
pleased, and, even on foot, their pace being so much greater than that
of the army, they often went far ahead in the night seeking traces of
the enemy. Now, although the march was not resisted, they saw
unmistakable signs that it was watched. They found trails of small
Indian bands and several soldiers who straggled into the forest were
killed and scalped. Braddock was enraged but not alarmed. The army
would brush away these flies and proceed to the achievement of its
object, the capture of Fort Duquesne. The soldiers from England
shuddered at the sight of their scalped comrades. It was a new form
of war to them, and very ghastly.
Robert, Tayoga and Willet were the best scouts and the regular
officers soon learned to rely on them. Grosvenor often begged to go
with them, but they laughingly refused.
"We don't claim to be of special excellence ourselves, Grosvenor,"
said Robert, "but such work needs a very long training. One, so to
speak, must be born to it, and to be born to it you have to be born in
this country, and not in England."
It was about the close of June and they had been nearly three weeks on
the way when the three, scouting on a moonlight night, struck a trail
larger than usual. Tayoga reckoned that it had been made by at least a
dozen warriors, and Willet agreed with him.
"And behold the trace of the big moccasin, Great Bear," said the
Onondaga, pointing to a faint impression among the leaves. "It is very
large, and it turns in much. We do not see it for the first time."
"Tandakora," said Willet.
"It can be none other."
"We shouldn't be surprised at seeing it. The Ojibway, like a wolf,
will rush to the place of killing."
"I am not surprised, Great Bear. It is strange, perhaps, that we have
not seen his footsteps before. No doubt he has looked many times upon
the marching army."
"Since Tandakora is here, probably leading the Indian scouts, we'll
have to take every precaution ourselves. I like my scalp, and I like
for it to remain where it has grown, on the top of my head."
They moved now with the most extreme care, always keeping under cover
of bushes, and never making any sound as they walked, but the army
kept on steadily in the road cut for it by the axmen. Encounters
between the flankers and small bands still occurred, but there was yet
no sign of serious resistance, and the fort was drawing nearer and
"I've no doubt the French commander will abandon it," said Grosvenor
to Robert. "He'll conclude that our army is too powerful for him."
"I scarce think so," replied Robert doubtfully. "'Tis not the French
way, at least, not on this continent. Like as not they will depend on
the savages, whom they have with them."
They had been on the march nearly a month when they came to Turtle
Creek, which flows into the Monongahela only eight miles from Fort
Duquesne a strong fortress of logs with bastions, ravelins, ditch,
glacis and covered ways, standing at the junction of the twin streams,
the Monongahela and the Alleghany, that form the great Ohio. Here they
made a little halt and the scouts who had been sent into the woods
reported silence and desolation.
The army rejoiced. It had been a long march, and the wilderness is
hard for those not used to it, even in the best of times. Victory was
now almost in sight. The next day, perhaps, they would march into
Fort Duquesne and take possession, and doubtless a strong detachment
would be sent in pursuit of the flying French and Indians.
Full warrant had they for their expectations, as nothing seemed more
peaceful than the wilderness. The flames from the cooking fires threw
their ruddy light over bough and bush, and disclosed no enemy, and, as
the glow of the coals died down, the peaceful tails of the night birds
showed that the forest was undisturbed.
Far in the night, Robert, Tayoga and Willet crept through the woods to
Fort Duquesne. They found many small trails of both white men and red
men, but none indicating a large force. At last they saw a light under
the western horizon, which they believed to come from Duquesne itself.
"Perhaps they've burned the fort and are abandoning it," said Robert.
Willet shook his head.
"Not likely," he said. "It's more probable that the light comes from
great fires, around which the savages are dancing the war dance."
"What do you think, Tayoga?"
"That the Great Bear is right."
"But surely," said Robert, "they can't hope to withstand an army like
"Robert," said Willet, "you've lived long enough in it to know that
anything is possible in the wilderness. Contrecoeur, the French
commander at Duquesne, is a brave and capable man. Beaujeu, who stands
next to him, has, they say, a soul of fire. You know what St. Luc is,
the bravest of the brave, and as wise as a fox, and Dumas and Ligneris
are great partisan leaders. Do you think these men will run away
without a fight?"
"But they must depend chiefly on the Indians!"
"Even so. They won't let the Indians run away either. We're bound to
have some kind of a battle somewhere, though we ought to win."
"Do you know the general's plans for tomorrow?"
"We're to start at dawn. We'll cross the Monongahela for the second
time about noon, or a little later, and then, if the French and
Indians have run away, as you seemed a little while ago to believe
they would, we'll proceed, colors flying into the fort."
"If the enemy makes a stand I should think it would be at the ford."
"Come! Come, Dave! Be cheerful. If they meet us at the ford or
anywhere else we'll brush 'em aside. That big body of French regulars
from Canada hasn't come--we know that--and there isn't force enough in
Duquesne to withstand us."
Willet did not say anything more, but his steps were not at all
buoyant as they walked back toward the camp. Robert, lying on a
blanket, slept soundly before one of the fires, but awoke at dawn, and
took breakfast with Willet, Tayoga, Grosvenor and the two young
Virginians, Stuart and Cabell.
"We'll be in Duquesne tonight," said the sanguine Stuart.
"In very truth we will," said the equally confident Grosvenor.
The dawn came clear and brilliant, and the army advanced, to the music
of a fine band. The light cavalry led the way, then came a detachment
of sailors who had been loaned by Admiral Keppel, followed by the
English regulars in red and the Virginians in blue. Behind them came
the cannon, the packhorses, and all the elements that make up the
train of an army.
It was a gay and inspiriting sight, especially so to youth, and
Robert's heart thrilled as he looked. The hour of triumph had come at
last. Away with the forebodings of Willet! Here was the might of
England and the colonies, and, brave and cunning as St. Luc and
Beaujeu and the other Frenchmen might be their bravery and cunning
would avail them nothing.
They marched on all the morning, a long and brilliant line of red and
blue and brown, and nothing happened. The forest on either side of
them was still silent and tenantless, and they expected in a few more
hours to see the fort they had come so far to take. The heavens
themselves were propitious. Only little white clouds were to be seen
in the sky of dazzling blue, and the green forest, stirred by a gentle
wind, waved its boughs at them in friendly fashion.
About noon they approached the river, and Gage leading a strong
advance guard across it, found no enemy on the other side, puzzling
and also pleasing news. The foe, whom they had expected to find in
this formidable position, seemed to have melted away. No trace of him
could be found in the forest, and to many it appeared that the road to
Fort Duquesne lay open.
"They've concluded our force is too great and have abandoned the
fort," said Robert. "I can't make anything else of it, Dave."
"It does look like it," said the hunter doubtfully. "I certainly
thought they would meet us here. The ford is the place of places for a
Gage made his report to Braddock, confirming the general in his belief
that the French and Indians would not dare to meet him, and that the
dangers of the wilderness had been overrated. The order to resume the
march was given and the trumpets in the advance sang merrily, the
silent woods giving back their echoes in faint musical notes. The
afternoon that had now come was as brilliant as the morning. A great
sun blazed down from a sky of cloudless blue, deepening and
intensifying the green of the forest, the red uniforms of the British
and the blue uniforms of the Virginians. Robert again admired the
sight. The army marched as if on parade, and it presented a splendid
The head of the column entered the shallows, and soon the long line
was passing the river. Robert had a lingering belief that the bullets
would rain upon them in the water, but nothing stirred in the forest
beyond. The head of the column emerged upon the opposite bank, and
then its long red and blue length trailed slowly after. Robert and his
comrades crossed in a wagon. They had wanted to go into the woods,
seeking for the enemy, but the orders of Braddock, who wished to keep
all his force together, held them.
The entire army was now across, and, within the shade of the forest,
the general ordered a short period for rest and food, before they
completed the few miles that yet separated them from Fort
Duquesne. The troops were in great spirits. They might have been held
at the dangerous ford, they thought, but now that it had been passed
without resistance the woods could offer nothing able to stop them.
"What has become of your warlike Frenchmen, Mr. Willet?" asked
Grosvenor. "So far as this campaign is concerned they seem to excel as
runners rather than warriors."
"I confess that I'm surprised, Mr. Grosvenor," replied the
hunter. "Beaujeu, St. Luc and Dumas are not the men to make a carpet
of roses for us to march on. There is something here that does not
meet the eye. What say you, Tayoga?"
"I like it not," replied the Onondaga. "In war I fear the forest when
it is silent."
Near them a small circle of land had been cleared and in it stood a
house, lone and deserted. It had been built by a trader named Fraser
and in it Washington, who had visited it once before on a former
mission, and one or two others sat, during the period of rest and
refreshment. The young Virginian, despite his great frame and gigantic
strength, was so much wasted by fever that, when he came forth to
remount, he was barely able to keep his place in his saddle.
Now the merry trumpets sang again and the red and blue column, lifting
itself up, resumed its march along the trail through the forest toward
Duquesne. The river was on one side and a line of high hills on the
other, but the forest everywhere was dense and in its heaviest
foliage. Braddock, despite the safe passage of the ford, was not
reckless. A troop of guides and Virginia light horsemen led the way. A
hundred yards behind them came the vanguard, then Gage with a picked
body of British troops, after them the axmen, who had done such great
work, behind them the main body of the artillery, the wagons and the
packhorses, while a strong force of regulars and Virginians closed up
the rear. Scouts and skirmishers ranged the flanks, though they were
ordered to go not more than a few hundred yards away.
Robert, Tayoga and Willet were with the guides at the very apex of the
column, and they continually searched the forests and the thickets
with keen eyes for a possible enemy. But all was quiet there. The
game, frightened by the advancing army, had gone away. Not a leaf, not
a bough stirred. The blazing sun, now near the zenith, poured down
fiery rays and it was hot in the shade of the great trees that grew so
Robert and the other scouts and guides in the apex marched on
soundless feet, but he heard close behind him the tread of the
Virginia light horsemen, behind them the steady march of the regulars
under Gage, and behind them the deep hum and murmur of the army, the
creaking of wheels and the clank of the great guns. Despite the
following sounds he was conscious all the time of the deep, intense
silence in the forest on either side of him. The birds, like the game,
had gone away, and there was no flash of blue or of flame among the
"There's a dip just ahead," said Willet, pointing to a wide ravine
filled with bushes that ran directly across the trail.
They continued their steady advance, and Robert's heart fluttered, but
when they came to the ravine they found it empty of everything save
the bushes, and the scouts and guides, plunging into it, crossed to
the other side. The light horsemen of Virginia followed, after them
Gage's regulars and then the main army drew on its red and blue
length, expecting to cross in the same way.
Robert, Tayoga and Willet, leading, entered the deep forest
again. Some chance had put young Lennox slightly in advance of his
comrades, but suddenly he stopped. A short distance ahead a figure
bounded across the trail and disappeared in the thicket. It was only a
flitting glimpse, but he recognized St. Luc, the athletic figure, the
fair hair and the strong face.
"St. Luc!" he exclaimed. "Did you see, Dave? Did you see?"
"Aye, I saw," said the hunter, "and the enemy is here!"
He whirled about, threw up his arms and shouted to the column to
stop. At the same moment, a terrible cry, the long fierce war whoop of
the savages, burst from the forest, filled the air and came back in
ferocious echoes. Then a deadly fire of rifles and muskets was poured
from both right and left upon the marching column. Men and horses went
down, and cries of pain and surprise blended with the war whoop of the
savages which swelled and fell again.
Robert and his comrades had thrown themselves flat upon the ground at
the first fire, and escaped the bullets. Now they rose to their
knees, and began to send their own bullets at the flitting forms among
the trees and bushes. Robert caught glimpses of the savages, naked to
the waist, coated thickly with war paint, their fierce eyes gleaming,
and now and then he saw a man in French uniform passing among them and
encouraging them. He saw one gigantic figure which he knew to be that
of Tandakora, and he raised his reloaded rifle to fire at him, but the
Ojibway was gone.
Surprised in the ominous forest, the British and the Virginians
nevertheless showed a courage worthy of all praise. Gage formed his
regulars on the trail, and they sent volley after volley into the
dense shades on either side, the big muskets thundering together like
cannon. Leaves and twigs and little boughs fell in showers before
their bullets, but whether they struck any of the foe they did not
know. The smoke soon rose in clouds and added to the dimness and
obscurity of the forest.
"A great noise," shouted Tayoga in Robert's ear, "but it does not hurt
the enemy, who sees his target and sends his bullets against it!"
The soldiers were dropping fast and the bullets of the French and the
savages were coming from their coverts in a deadly rain. Robert,
Willet and Tayoga, with the wisdom of the wilderness, remained
crouched at the edge of the trail, but in shelter, and did not fire
until they saw an enemy upon whom to draw the trigger. Then a deeper
roar was added to the thundering of the big muskets, as Braddock
brought up the cannon, and they began to sweep the forest. The English
troops, eager to get at the foe, crowded forward, shouting "God save
the King!" and the cheers of the Virginians joined with them.
"We'll win! We'll win!" cried Robert. "They can't stop such brave men
But the fire of the French and the savages was increasing in volume
and accuracy. The bullets and cannon balls of the English and
Americans fired almost at random were passing over their heads, but
the great column of scarlet and blue on the trail formed a target
which the leaden missiles could not miss. Continually shouting the war
whoop, exultant now with the joy of expected triumph, the savages
hovered on either flank of Braddock's army like a swarm of bees, but
with a sting far more deadly. The brave and wily Beaujeu had been
killed in the first minute of the battle, but St. Luc, Dumas and
Ligneris, equally brave and wily, directed the onset, and the huge
Tandakora raged before his warriors.
The head of the British column was destroyed, and the three crept back
toward Gage's regulars, but the fire of the enemy was now spreading
along both flanks of the column to its full length. Robert remembered
the warning words of St. Luc. Every twig and leaf in the forest was
spouting death. Gage's regulars, raked by a terrible fire, and in
danger of complete destruction, were compelled to retreat upon the
main body, and, to their infinite mortification, abandon two cannon,
which the savages seized with fierce shouts of joy and dragged into
"It goes ill," said Willet, as the terrible forest, raining death from
every side, seemed to close in on them like the shadow of
doom. Braddock, hearing the tremendous fire ahead, rushed forward his
own immediate troops as fast as possible, and meeting Gage's
retreating men, the two bodies became a great mass of scarlet in the
forest, upon which French and Indian bullets, that could not miss,
beat like a storm of hail. The shouts and cheers of the regulars
ceased. In an appalling situation, the like of which they had never
known before, hemmed in on every side by an unseen death, they fell
into confusion, but they did not lose courage. The savage ring now
enclosed the whole army, and to stand and to retreat alike meant
The British charged with the bayonet into the thickets. The Indians
melted away before them, and, when the exhausted regulars came back
into the trail, the Indians rushed after them, still pouring in a
murderous fire, and making the forest ring with the ferocious war
whoop. The Virginians, knowing the warfare of the wilderness, began to
take to the shelter of the trees, from which they could fire at the
enemy. The brave though mistaken Braddock fiercely ordered them out
again. A score lying behind a fallen trunk and, matching the savages
at their own game, were mistaken by the regulars for the foe, and were
fired upon with deadly effect. Other regulars who tried to imitate the
hostile tactics were set upon by Braddock himself who beat them with
the flat of his sword and drove them back into the open trail, where
the rain of bullets fell directly upon them.
Robert looked upon the scene and he found it awful to the last
degree. The bodies of the dead in red or blue lay everywhere.
Officers, English and Virginian, ran here and there begging
and praying their troops to stand and form in order. "Fire
upon the enemy!" they shouted. "Show us somebody to fire at and we'll
fire," the men shouted back. The confusion was deepening, and the
signs of a panic were appearing. In the forest the circle of Indians,
mad with battle and the greatest taking of scalps they had ever known,
pressed closer and closer, and sent sheets of bullets into the huddled
mass. Many of them leaped in and scalped the fallen before the eyes of
the horrified soldiers. The yelling never ceased, and it was so
terrific that the few British officers who survived declared that they
would never forget it to their dying day.
Among the officers the mortality was now frightful. The brave Sir
Peter Halket was shot dead, and his young son, the lieutenant, rushing
to raise up his body, was killed and fell by his side. The youthful
Shirley, Braddock's secretary, received a bullet in his brain and died
instantly. Out of eighty-six officers sixty-three were down.
Washington alone seemed to bear a charmed life. Two horses were
killed under him and four bullets pierced his clothing. Braddock
galloped back and forth, cursing and shouting to his men, and showing
undaunted courage. Robert believed that he never really understood
what was happening, that the deadly nature of the surprise and its
appalling completeness left him dazed.
How long Robert stood at the edge of the circle of death and fired
into the bushes he never knew, but it seemed to him that almost an
eternity had passed, when Tayoga seized him by the arm and shouted in
"It is finished! Our army has perished! Come, Lennox!"
He wiped the smoke from his eyes, and saw that the mass in red and
blue was much smaller. Braddock was still on his horse, and, at the
insistence of his officers, he was at last giving the command to
retreat. Just as the trumpet sounded that note of defeat he was shot
through the body and fell to the ground where, in his rage and
despair, he begged the men to leave him to die alone. But two of the
Virginia officers lifted him up and bore him toward the rear. Then the
army that had fought so long against an invisible foe broke into a
panic, that is what was left of it, as two thirds of its numbers had
already been killed or wounded. Shouting with horror and ignoring
their officers, they rushed for the river.
Everything was lost, cannon and baggage were abandoned, and often
rifles and muskets were thrown away. Into the water they rushed, and
the Indians, who had followed howling like wolves, stopped, though
they fired at the fleeing men in the stream.
As the retreat began, Robert, Tayoga and Willet, whom some miracle
seemed to preserve from harm, joined the Virginians who covered the
rear, and, as fast as they could reload their rifles, they fired at
the demon horde that pressed closer and closer, and that never ceased
to cut down the fleeing army. It was much like a ghastly dream to
Robert. Nothing was real, except his overwhelming sense of horror. Men
fell around him, and he wondered why he did not fall too, but he was
untouched, and Willet and Tayoga also were unwounded. He saw near him
young Stuart who had lost his horse long since, but who had snatched a
rifle from a fallen soldier, and who was fighting gallantly on foot.
"Who would have thought it?" exclaimed the Virginian. "An army such
as ours, to be beaten, nay, to be destroyed, by a swarm of savages!"
"But don't forget the Frenchmen!" shouted Robert in reply. "They're
"Which is no consolation to us," cried Stuart. He said something else,
but it was lost in the tremendous firing and yelling of the Indians,
who were now only a score of yards away from the devoted rear guard
that was doing its best to protect the flying and confused mass of
Robert discharged his bullet at a brown face and then, as he walked
backward, he tripped and fell over a root. He sprang up at once, but
in an instant a gigantic figure bounded out of the fire and smoke, and
Tandakora, uttering a fierce shout of triumph, circled his tomahawk
swiftly above his head, preparatory to the mortal blow. But Tayoga,
quick as lightning, hurled his pistol with all his might. It struck
the huge Ojibway on the head with such force that the tomahawk fell
from his hand, and he staggered back into the smoke.
"Tayoga, again I thank you!" cried Robert.
"You will do the same for me," said the Onondaga, and then they too
were lost in the smoke, as with the rear guard of Virginians they
followed the retreating army.
Robert and his comrades, swept on in the press, crossed the river with
the others and gained the farther shore unhurt. Willet looked back at
the woods, which still flamed with the hostile rifles, and shuddered.
"It's worse than anything of which I ever dreamed," he said. "Now the
tomahawk and the scalping knife will sweep the border from Canada to
The panic was stopped at last and the broken remnants of the army,
covered by the Virginians who understood the forest, began their
retreat. Braddock died the next day, his last words being, "We shall
know better how to deal with them another time." Washington, Orme,
Morris and the others carried the news of the great defeat to Virginia
and Pennsylvania, whence it was sent to England, to be received there
at first with incredulity, men saying that such a thing was
impossible. But England too was soon to be in mourning, because so
many of her bravest had fallen at the hands of an invisible foe in the
far American wilderness.
Robert, Willet and Tayoga followed the retreating army only a short
distance beyond the Monongahela. They saw that Grosvenor, Stuart and
Cabell had escaped with slight wounds, and, slipping quietly into the
forest, they circled about Fort Duquesne, seeing the lights where the
Indians were burning their wretched prisoners alive, and then plunging
again into the woods.
Late at night they lay down in a dense covert, and exhausted,
slept. They rose at dawn, and tried to shake off the horror.
"Be of good courage, Robert," said Willet. "It's a terrible blow, but
England and the colonies have not yet gathered their full strength."
"That is so," said Tayoga. "Our sachems tell us that he who wins the
first victory does not always win the last."
A bird on a bough over their heads began to sing a song of greeting to
the new day, and Robert hoped and believed.